BEST HOTEL CHAIN IN THE WORLD
This luxury hotel chain has been growing rapidly since President and Chief Operating Officer Simon Cooper took reign in 2001. An aggressive expansion in Asia-Pacific is underway, where business travel is booming. The Ritz will also open its first properties in Ireland and Russia in 2006. The hotel chain prides itself on offering a differentiated product with its enterprise-wide system that tracks its guests' preferences—everything down to the type and amount of fruit a guest likes in the morning. The company's employees also take customer service to a higher level, which is probably one of the reasons why BT readers nominated Ritz Carlton as the Best Hotel Chain in the World. "It really is about attracting and motivating the best people you can find...what drives loyalty are the intangible aspects of the stay," Cooper notes.
BEST WEBSITE FOR BOOKING TRAVEL
Orbitz has been busy this year, continuing to expand its products and standing out among its growing list of competitors. BT readers have taken note by nominating Orbitz the Best Website for Booking Travel. In 2005, Orbitz began offering discounts for limousine services, and signed partnerships with Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines to offer cheap airfare to Eastern Europe, where both carriers have a leading presence. The discount Website reorganized its products by separating airfare into business- and first-class and refundable tickets. Hotels can now be searched by location instead of only their star rating. Jeff Grant, vice president of hotels for Orbitz, said the Website will begin offering customer reviews of hotels, restaurants and shops starting Dec. 17 from a survey the Website conducted. In 2006, Orbitz will expand its Care Alert program, calling customers to inform them of bad weather or airport delays.
BEST CARRY-ON LUGGAGE BRAND
Tumi consistently receives high marks from frequent travelers for its luggage, and BT readers are no different. The company was nominated as Best Carry-on Luggage Brand for 2005. Tumi's urban gear brand sets the company apart from its competitors, with a design for tech-savvy travelers. The luggage line has integrated pockets for laptops, MP3 players, personal organizers, mobile phones, port cord holders and water bottles. In 2005 Tumi expanded its product line by introducing 10 models of Swiss-made timepieces—three of which have dual time-zone capabilities. The company recently announced a licensing agreement with Ducati, an Italian motorcycle manufacturer, for a Ducati Collection by Tumi that will be unveiled in February. In 2006, Tumi will market itself as a lifestyle brand, launching a new collection of active wear for travelers on the go.
BEST AIRPORT IN NORTH AMERICA
Denver International Airport
When it was built in 1995, some residents and frequent travelers complained Denver International was too far from the city center, but what the airport lacks in proximity to Denver's downtown, it makes up for in good customer service, baggage care and ambience. Sally Covington, director of marketing at Denver airport, says its main goal is customer service, which requires a good working relationship with TSA employees. The FAA recently named Denver the best airport in the nation for on-time performance, which may be another reason Denver overtook Chicago O'Hare as the Best Airport in North America for 2005, according to BT readers.
BEST AIRLINE ALLIANCE
In September, Star Alliance became the first airline group to offer a frequent-flyer redemption option across the alliance, rather than on an individual carrier basis. The redemption is currently available for ANA, Austrian, LOT, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, but additional Star Alliance members will be added to the reciprocity agreement throughout 2006. BT readers voted Star Alliance the Best Airline Alliance of 2005.
Star Alliance collectively flies to 795 destinations in 139 countries. South African Airways and SWISS will be inducted as members by the end of 2006.
BEST HOTEL WEBSITE
Starwood Hotels and Resorts' Website is minimalist in overall look but heavy on content—with information about everything the giant hotel conglomerate offers. The Website is also easy to navigate with connecting links to its varied brands: Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, St. Regis, Le Meridien, W Hotels, Westin and Luxury Collection. Visitors can also search for hotel information by location, interest, destination or brand. BT readers voted Starwood Best Hotel Website for 2005.
BEST RENTAL CAR COMPANY IN THE WORLD
Hertz was named Best Rental Car Company in the world by BT readers. The company unveiled its new prestige fleet several years ago and pumped more money into expanding the number and types of luxury vehicles in 2005. Hertz also made it possible this year for customers to order rental cars by specific make and model. The company has also expanded its off-airport sites, making it easier for travelers to pick up and drop off vehicles when their travel does not involve flying. In 2006, Hertz will expand its Fun Collection of vehicles, and install more GPS devices in its rental cars in Europe and the U.S.
BEST PRIVATE JET PROVIDER
BT readers chose Marquis as the Best Private-Jet Provider for 2005. The company continued to roll out new programs this year, attracting travelers who like to fly in ultimate luxury. In March, Marquis launched the M CLUB, an exclusive 100-person membership program that provides access to a $52 million, 18-seat Boeing Business Jet. The aircraft has two bedrooms, a formal dining area and a 42-inch plasma wall monitor. Earlier in 2005, Marquis introduced the 25-Hour Combination Card, which allows cardholders to use 12.5 hours each on two different jet models. Marquis operates a fleet with an average age of four years, which is much newer than its competitors. In-flight catering and amenities like phone service, are also included in the club's membership.
BEST AIRPORT IN THE WORLD
Singapore Changi Airport
Singapore Changi Airport was named Best Airport in the World by BT readers this year and for good reason. Singapore is a hot spot for global business, and the airport has made efforts to accommodate business travelers with amenities like a rooftop swimming pool, fitness center, several business centers and landscaped gardens in all departure and transit lounges. As the sixth busiest airport in the world, Changi does not show signs of slowing, with a projected six percent growth in passengers in 2005 over the previous year.
Despite its hurried atmosphere, efficiency is important to the airport authorities who claim it takes less than 34 minutes to clear immigration and customs, and baggage claim.
BEST FIRST-CLASS HOTEL CHAIN FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL
Hilton is the flagship brand of Hilton Hotels Corporation and offers ubiquity and consistency for its guests with over 500 properties worldwide. BT readers voted it Best First-Class Hotel Chain for business travel. In 2005, Hilton Hotels & Resorts began installing new bedding, introduced high-tech, user-friendly alarm clocks, and introduced high-protein, low-sugar menu options on its restaurant and room service menus. Expanding on healthy options for frequent travelers, in February Hilton teamed up with Bally Fitness to offer guests access to personal trainers during their stays.
BEST INDIVIDUAL HOTEL FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL
The Peninsula Chicago opened in 2001 with some of the largest guest rooms (399, including suites) in the Windy City. The Peninsula Chicago has all the amenities of a luxury hotel, including 24-hour room service, four restaurants and a bar, and marble bathrooms. Business travelers also appreciate the oversize desks, complimentary wireless service in all guest rooms, and support for virtual private networks. In November, the hotel partnered with Hastens, a luxury bed provider, to equip three of the hotel's suites with its beds, which cost between $11,650 and $19,250 a bed. BT readers named the Peninsula Chicago the Best Individual Hotel for Business Travel.
BEST ECONOMY HOTEL CHAIN FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL
BT readers selected the Hampton Inn as Best Economy Hotel Chain for Business Travel this year. In 2005, Hampton began installing new bedding that will be in all of its hotels by June 1. This year, the hotel chain continued the process of updating its services, such as complimentary hot breakfasts or breakfast- to-go, easy-to-set alarm clocks with cable connection for MP3 players and iPods as well as high-speed Internet access in guest rooms.
BEST CREDIT CARD/CREDIT CARD WITH BEST REWARDS PROGRAM
American Express is constantly innovating and 2005 was no different. BT readers took notice, selecting American Express as the Best Credit Card and the Credit Card With the Best Rewards Program. In 2005, the company introduced Clear from American Express, a card that carries no fees, has an automatic rewards program and financial management tools. American Express also expanded its popular In:New York City card to Chicago and Los Angeles. The credit card earns cardholders reward points and special entrance to popular nightlife destinations, restaurants and even movie rental stores in the selected city. In August, the company introduced Private Jet Rewardsóits first alliance with private jets. Also important for frequent travelers, American Express and Delta announced a partnership in May for a SkyPoints credit card.
BEST MOBILE PHONE SERVICE PROVIDER IN NORTH AMERICA
Verizon Wireless was voted Best Mobile Phone Service Provider in North America by BT readers, who argue that the provider offers better coverage nationwide than any of its competitors. Verizon spokesperson Brenda Raney said that customer service at the company begins when a potential customer walks into a Verizon Wireless store. "We don't offer devices that we cannot support," says Raney. In 2005, the company expanded its voice service and data support, allowing for true office mobility. Verizon also invests over $4 billion in its network every year to maintain superior coverage.
BEST MOBILE PHONE SERVICE PROVIDER IN THE WORLD
Cingular Wireless continued to boost its range of service nationwide and worldwide in 2005, making the company the Best Mobile Phone Service Provider in the World, according to BT readers. In December, Cingular introduced a new Push to Talk (PTT) service that uses icons that allow customers to see if other PTT users are available before calling. The service also enables users to select individuals from their contact list and make group calls.
BEST HOTEL CHAIN IN NORTH AMERICA/BEST HOTEL REWARDS PROGRAM
Marriott unveiled the new mSpot high-tech guest room design in September, as part of its pledge to invest $5 billion over the next five years in technology, interior design and new beds. The popular Marriott rewards program added a "retail mall" to its list of perks in 2005, where members can earn points at online vendors like Barnes & Noble and Netflix. This year BT readers voted Marriott both Best Hotel Chain in North America and Best Hotel Rewards Program.
BEST LUXURY CHAIN
Four Seasons arrived in Geneva, Hong Kong and Damascus this year, and has planned expansions to Silicon Valley, Seattle, Mumbai and Beijing-all underserved destinations for global business travelers, said Barbara Talbott, executive vice president of marketing for Four Seasons. At the Four Seasons "service is 24-hours a day, seven days a week and its tailored to what you need to be completely productive on a business trip," Talbott says. BT readers seem to agree, nominating Four Seasons the Best Luxury Hotel Chain in 2005. The Four Seasons keeps its focus on convenience and customer service, which help business travelers save time.
BEST AIRLINE FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL
AIRLINE WITH THE BEST FIRST-CLASS SERVICE
AIRLINE WITH THE BEST BUSINESS-CLASS SERVICE TO ASIA
AIRLINE WITH THE BEST ECONOMY-CLASS SERVICE
In recent years, Singapore Airlines has appeared at or near the top of just about every customer survey in the world. The airline is renowned for its impeccable in-flight service, on-time performance and overall customer relations. Some airlines may think they've accomplished enough, but Singapore Airlines continues to raise the bar. While other airlines may be able to install a great airline seat, Singapore strives to make every flight a unique and pleasurable experience. "This is an industry where it's very easy for your competitors to reach parity with your hardware," says James Boyd, vice president, public relations, Americas, at Singapore. "We're differentiating the product in a way that plugs into the passengers' emotions."
In March 2005, Singapore became one of the first airlines to offer the Connexion by Boeing broadband service, which allows passengers to access the Internet at cruising altitude. Singapore later became the first to extend that relationship through the live global television service offered by Connnexion by Boeing, which offers CNBC, BBC World, Euronews and Eurosportnews channels. In 2006, Singapore will offer the service through passenger seat-back screens.
AIRLINE WITH THE BEST BUSINESS-CLASS SERVICE
AIRLINE WITH THE BEST AIRPORT LOUNGE
What can you say when an airline is constantly pushed to the limit by its competitors and finds a way to meet the challenge? British Airways operates in one of the most hotly contested markets in the world, with Virgin Atlantic consistently breathing down its neck and two new entrant carriers, Eos and MaxJet now looking to steal away premium passengers.
Since creating Club World in 2000, British Airways has consistently found ways to enhance and refresh the product. After rival Virgin Atlantic unveiled its groundbreaking Upper Class Suite, BA responded with its own Club World Sleeper Service, designed to quiet the mood of its business-class cabins. Passengers can enjoy a fine meal at the Terraces Lounge, light snacks throughout the flight and a late breakfast just before landing. For passengers flying out of Washington-Dulles, BA has spent more than $1 million to enhance facilities for premium passengers.
Don't blink, because as good as Club World is now, BA just announced plans for a $175 million upgrade in 2006, including new business-class seats and new in-flight entertainment in all four cabin classes. While details are not yet available, BA will likely focus on seats that are more spacious yet offer more intimacy.
"We think it will clearly be the best business-class seat in the sky," says Robin Hayes, executive vice president, Americas, at British Airways.
AIRLINE WITH THE BEST BUSINESS-CLASS SERVICE TO THE SOUTH PACIFIC
Air New Zealand
In the minds of many Americans, Air New Zealand has always been considered a surprisingly good airline to a great leisure destination. However, the carrier has launched an $800 million overhaul that will rival some of the most prestigious airlines in the Far East. Air New Zealand is bringing eight B777-200 aircraft into its fleet and overhauling its B747 aircraft while it has increased service from several U.S. gateways, including the new nonstop from San Francisco to Auckland.
Cabin crews have new uniforms, the executive chef at the trendy Table 8 restaurant in L.A. and Miami has updated menus for premium passengers and in-flight entertainment now includes audio and video on demand. Gerard Gilmore, vice president, North America and Europe at Air New Zealand says that carriers in such a competitive long-haul market must consider more than costs. "That's not what customers wantóthey want great value."
AIRLINE WITH THE BEST BUSINESS-CLASS SERVICE TO EUROPE
AIRLINE WITH THE BEST BUSINESS-CLASS SERVICE TO EASTERN EUROPE
Lufthansa has always been known as an efficient, competent, professional airline that business travelers would gladly consider when flying to Germany or beyond. However, if you haven't been paying attention lately, this airline has a wow factor that you would never expect. Sleeper seats, called PrivateBeds, are among the longest and most comfortable in the skies, and if you need to work, Lufthansa offers high-speed Internet service called FlyNet, which lets you surf the Web on your laptop while at cruising altitude or even access your corporate Intranet. With the recent merger of Lufthansa and Swiss, business travelers will have even more flight options.
The airline is focused more than ever on the premium traveler. About a year ago, it introduced a program called HON Circle, for passengers who collect more than 600,000 miles in a two-year period. HON Circle members and other first-class passengers will get access to its dedicated first-class terminal in Frankfurt. Passengers using this terminal get the best, including personal assistants, bathrooms with full showers and tubs, gourmet meals and limousine transfers directly to the aircraft.
"You know the flight is on time, the seat is okay and hustle on the ground is taken away from you," notes Thomas Winkleman, vice president, Americas for Lufthansa.
BEST AIRLINE FOR NORTH AMERICAN TRAVEL AIRLINE WITH THE BEST FREQUENT-FLYER PROGRAM
While traveling overseas may be glamorous, traveling within the U.S. is essential. There are many choices and for many airlines it has been tough to stay ahead of the game. What United has managed to do in the past year, particularly on domestic routes, has been no less than remarkable. While struggling to recover from years of financial turmoil, the airline helped redefine what it means to travel on long-haul domestic routes and short-haul regional flights.
Just over a year ago, United launched its groundbreaking p.s. service on trans-continental flights from JFK in New York to San Francisco and LAX. The p.s. service offers premium seating, meals and in-flight entertainment that are commonly offered on international flights. United Express helped reinvent the hated regional jet, with the explus, a 70-seat aircraft with United First, and Economy Plus seats and meals on flights of more than 2.5 hours.
While United made innovative changes to its service, it created several programs to make sure its Mileage Plus members remained loyal. For example, the Business1 program guarantees 500 bonus miles for passengers arriving late for selected flights from Chicago O'Hare. Mileage Plus members can also buy automated upgrades into Economy Plus for an annual fee.
"We know we have to earn the loyalty of discerning business travelers and we are committed to delivering what they want," says Dennis Cary Jr., senior vice president of marketing.
BEST BUSINESS-CLASS SERVICE TO THE MIDDLE EAST
If you've never lived in a mansion, driven a Mercedes or flown a private jet, imagine an airline that rolls all those things into one. Since launching service from New York to Dubai in June 2004, Emirates has put the aviation world on notice that it is the next big thing, and Dubai is poised to become a hub city of choice for long-haul international flights within the next few years. In select cities, first and business-class passengers are driven by chauffer to the airport, both when you leave your house and when you transfer to your hotel. "We believe service sells," said Nigel Page, senior vice president, commercial operations, the Americas.
In just the past two months, the carrier launched a second flight from New York, opened new lounges in Paris and JFK and announced the biggest order of B777s ever, at more than $9.7 billion. By 2007, Emirates will have a dedicated premium-class terminal in Dubai for passengers of the A380 superjumbo.
BEST AIRLINE WEBSITE
AIRLINE WITH BEST BUSINESS-CLASS SERVICE TO MEXICO/LATIN AMERICA
Since acquiring routes from Eastern Airlines in 1989, American Airlines has dominated service to much of the Caribbean and South America. The carrier serves 37 destinations from its massive hub at Miami International Airport, and just opened a major international terminal at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
As online travel sites have become more popular, individual airlines are adding more and more functionality to their own sites. American Airlines has added new functionality to make booking seamless for both independent travelers and corporate employees. American is also relaunching its corporate booking tool, CorporateAAccess.com, under a partnership with Cendant Corp. The relaunched site allows AA travelers to purchase negotiated corporate rates, regular published fares, as well as hotels, rental cars and fares on other airlines.
AIRLINE WITH THE BEST PREMIUM ECONOMY-CLASS SERVICE
Virgin Atlantic has been a thorn in the side of every establishment carrier in the world. Every time one of the old guard thinks they have a market locked up, Virgin comes along and throws an innovation that passengers fall in love with into the mix. During the early 1990s, Virgin was the first major airline to offer a premium economy cabin priced at economy fares. Now Premium Economy is a favorite for many cost-conscious business travelers who need the extra legroom, the dedicated check-in and the rapid baggage return, but want to avoid the price.
AIRLINE WITH THE BEST BUSINESS-CLASS SERVICE TO THE NORDIC COUNTRIES
In March, Scandinavian Airlines became the world's first airline to install wireless broadband through its entire route network The SAS Net Access program, developed with Connexion by Boeing, is similar to other in-flight Internet services on Lufthansa, Singapore and other carriers. At the same time, SAS announced plans to unveil a "next-generation" airline seat in 2006. The seats will fold down into flat beds, offer video-on-demand entertainment and have storage for laptop computers.
BEST LOW-COST AIRLINE
Since it launched in 2000, JetBlue has won the hearts and minds of many travelers, including students going home for vacation, families visiting loved ones and vacation travelers trying to escape the harsh northeast winters. Many have overlooked the impact that JetBlue has on business travel. Online booking is a snap, change fees are low and the in-flight service exceeds that of many network airlines. In 2004, JetBlue launched a corporate booking link so companies could manage renegade travelers. This year the carrier launched a co-branded credit card with American Express, a boon to frequent travelers; now the carrier is expanding to smaller markets with Embraer 190 regional jets, offering XM Satellite, DirectTV and Fox Inflight on longer flights. Who says regional flights can't be cool?
AIRLINE WITH THE BEST BUSINESS-CLASS SERVICE TO AFRICA
South African Airways
Until a few years ago, most business trips to Africa involved connecting through a European hub like London, Paris or Amsterdam. For travelers to South Africa, such a trip could be prohibitive, both in the wallet and on the body. In a few short years, South African Airways has emerged as one of the world's great carriers, with flat bed seating, the latest entertainment options and premium lounges in major business capitals. SAA is now one of the newest additions to the Star Alliance, and recently launched new service to Washington, D.C. and entered a comprehensive code-share with United Airlines.